The “Suckface” Incident

Suddenly, my mind and body are on full alert! An “inner” sense of knowing is seizing my attention and telling me to shift my eyes away from the driver. With calm intensity, I slowly turn my head and look up at a large Victorian house on the hill, slightly ahead and a half block beyond the driver’s position. As my eyes come to a rest on the Victorian, the motorcycle driver whips around and screams at me, “What are you looking at, Suckface?”

In the late seventies I worked part time delivering desserts to hotels and restaurants from South San Francisco to San Jose for a San Francisco bakery. Since I was also editing and publishing Coordinate Point, a magazine that explored the nature of consciousness and being, I often talked about dreams and psychic phenomena with the people I met in my travels. Catherine seemed as interested as any. She was a new friend and business customer from South San Francisco. During an animated discussion about dreams and intuitive experiences late in 1979, I asked her if she had ever participated in a Guided Imagery Exercise (GIE). She didn’t know what Guided Imagery was so I described the process to her and shared one of my favorite experiences with her. When I finished, she asked me to conduct a Guided Imagery Exercise for her and some friends. I agreed, and we set up a time for the following week.

Here’s the guided imagery experience I shared with Catherine. I call it Healing by Fire.

In guided imagery one person acts as the storyteller or guide while the other participants lie down, relax, and close their eyes. Once the participants are fully relaxed, usually through a series of relaxation exercises, the storyteller constructs an imaginary scene and offers suggestions to focus, guide, and stimulate the participants’ creative abilities, just like thoughts and emotions stimulate our creative abilities in dreams. The results depend on each person’s ability to relax and get out of the way of his or her consciousness so it can flesh out the story line and allow the scene to take on a life of its own!



The first Guided Imagery Exercises I participated in involved the spirits of earth, fire, wind (air), and water. We met once a week and each week, for a month, we used one of these basic elements to build a story around. My favorite was the fire exercise.

After conducting a relaxation exercise, the storyteller describes a scene with trees, green grass, and wild flowers. He encourages us to enter the scene. Because I’m so relaxed and these scenic elements are so pleasant and non-threatening, I find it easy to fully enter into the scene. He encourages us to explore our surroundings, to tumble in the grass, smell the flowers, or float up into the trees if we want. After a while (several minutes), the storyteller tells us to “see” the pathway that winds through the trees. He instructs us to follow the path. We can walk, run, float, roll, tumble, or fly, whatever suits our fancy. I choose to float, and after some initial difficulty, do so quite successfully. As we approach an open field, we’re told to see a fire burning off to one side of the path. Again, several suggestions are offered to stimulate our imagination. A roaring bonfire is one suggestion and a burning house another. Once we see our fire, we’re instructed to enter it. I choose a burning house for my experience.

The house is a short distance off the path to my left. It’s nearly burned to the ground but there’s still some debris burning around the sides and in the middle of the house. My fear of being burned grows as I approach the flames, so I remind myself that I’m not in my physical body, that the flames can’t hurt me in my astral form. When I step into the flames they feel cool against my skin. Delighted and relieved by the cool, breezy feeling of the flames as they lap against my legs, I walk to the center of the house to be among the tallest flames. As I revel in these wonderful new sensations, a large column of flame rises up in front of me and huddles against my chest. As I look at it, an arm-like extension of flame reaches out from the right side of its body and penetrates the left side of my chest. Before I can react, I feel something like a hand wrap around my heart and begin to knead it gently and lovingly.

Somehow, in this alternate reality a doorway for healing has opened. For many years I sensed a growing hardness in my heart from being so angry at myself and the world for not being perfect. The continued kneading of my heart by the Fire Being, or Spirit, releases strong feelings of love and compassion in me. With a sigh of relief, I completely relax into the experience.

The Storyteller speaks again and gently suggests we bring our fire experience to an end. As his suggestion slowly filters through my mind, the Flame Spirit withdraws its fiery hand from inside my chest. Growing an additional appendage from the left side of its body, it reaches up over my right shoulder and around the back of my neck, seemingly to support itself. Then it leans back and looks into my face. With the fiery hand it had used to massage my heart, it reaches up and gently brushes the left side of my face with the back side of its hand, like a mother expressing love and sadness before parting. After one final hug, it slowly lets go of me and sinks down into the flames still burning around my legs. With sadness, I turn and walk out of the burning house and back up the pathway. As I retrace my steps to the beginning of this journey and waking reality, I mentally relive my experience with the Fire Being and marvel at the magic and wonder of it all. It was a profound healing, maybe even life-saving, experience for me!


 When I arrive at Catherine’s house in South San Francisco she’s home alone but expecting two friends. When they arrive it becomes clear neither one has ever heard of Guided Imagery. They ask me if its hypnotism, subliminal suggestion, or something more disempowering. To remove their fears, I explain that Guided Imagery simply combines storytelling with imaginative role-playing, something that often happens spontaneously when someone reads a story to us. The only difference between old-fashioned storytelling and Guided Imagery is that the listeners are meant to actively participate in the story. It’s about them! The hope is that something important and meaningful will come from the experience, as it did in mine. Guided Imagery is essentially a waking dream, one that the “dreamer” has conscious control over. I don’t know whether it was their skepticism or a lack of experience using their imaginations, but after the exercise only Catherine said she “thought” she could see something when I suggested they picture a scene of trees, grass, and flowers in their minds. The other two participants said all they could see was the black behind their eyelids. (Maybe imaginations need exercise like muscles.)

Despite the poor results Catherine and her friends experienced, the longer I spent conducting the Guided Imagery Exercise with them, the more relaxed and intuitive I became, unknowingly setting the stage for what was to come. When I left Catherine’s house for the drive north up highway 101 to my home in San Francisco, I felt very playful and alive. My body was virtually tingling with spiritual energy!


The late night traffic on the five-lane Bayshore Freeway (Hwy. 101) was light, so I settled into the middle lane and drove at the speed limit, 55mph. Highway 101, between South San Francisco and San Francisco, is five lanes wide to accommodate the extra traffic generated by the presence of San Francisco International Airport and Candlestick (later, 3 Com, now Monster) Park. Less than a minute after I was settled into a comfortable groove (middle lane, 55mph), two rough looking guys on a Harley Davidson motorcycle slowly passed me on the right, in lane number 2. As I watched them move by, their “look” triggered a torrent of playful observations and judgments, like: Wow, these guys really look rough! I wonder how many years they’ve spent in places like San Quentin knocking out license plates with dirty acronyms? (a personal joke here because I often spend time turning the letters on license plates into sexually explicit statements to amuse myself as I drive) And look at those identical Mackinaw coats they’re wearing – they look brand new! I wonder which warehouse they stole those from? (Mackinaw coats are short winter coats, made of a thick, woolen, commonly plaid material. They were once popular in the northern and western United States, worn by many Indians and lumbermen)

As amusing as my thoughts are, I can’t help but notice their emphasis on slicing and dicing my two new road buddies into pieces (categorizing and stereotyping them). In a moment’s glance, I have these two guys accused, judged, and hung. To salve a faint twinge of guilt, I remind myself that I’m only playing with surface issues, that deep down, I know we’re all one and basically good. This makes the situation even more fun because, now, I think, as long as I don’t take my thoughts too seriously, I can be as playful and outrageous as I please. Not!

As soon as he passes my front bumper the motorcycle driver turns to enter my lane without signaling. Observing this rude and dangerous move, the passenger quickly sticks his left arm out as a way of apology and to signal the turn. Adding fuel to the fire of my imagination, the motorcycle driver reaches back with his left arm and starts pounding his friend’s arm as hard as he can, to make him put it down. What was that all about, I wonder? Damn, are these guys really thieves? Did they really break into a warehouse and steal their Mackinaw coats? How many did they steal? Where were they hiding them? Who are they selling them to, and, jokingly, how much money are they going to make from the deal? After this wild flurry of questions my thoughts settle down, and once the driver of the motorcycle establishes a steady and safe distance between us, my thoughts turn in new directions, until I see the two men take the same freeway interchange I have to take to get home. Suddenly my full attention is back on them with growing irritation and concern.

As we approach the Fell Street Off-Ramp, the exit closest to my home, I find myself holding my breath and “willing” the pair on to the next exit, but to no avail. As fate, or magic, would have it, we are meant to continue our private little drama until it reaches some undisclosed and, hopefully, meaningful conclusion. So once again I watch as the motorcycle passenger signals their turn and the driver reaches back to pound on his arm, even more viciously than he did before. Why is this guy so goddamned contemptuous and angry, I wonder? And, why isn’t the red light at the foot of the off-ramp turning green for Christ sake, there’s no traffic around? So here we are, at the foot of the Fell Street off-ramp, which splits into five lanes, waiting for the light to change. The two men on the motorcycle are in the middle lane, waiting to head up Fell Street Hill, and I’m in the far right lane, waiting to turn right onto Laguna Street. The stop line angles back for the turn onto Laguna Street, so I’m stopped several feet behind the motorcycle. Feeling safe from this vantage point, I carefully scrutinize my two new “friends” while waiting for the light to change, which seems to take forever! As I study them, I think, Where did the driver get the money to buy such a nice motorcycle? With his temper, I don’t see how he can hold a regular job. Also, I wonder, what circumstances brought these two guys together and what kind of relationship do they have? The passenger seems to be pretty well meaning.

Suddenly, my mind and body go on full alert! An “inner” sense of knowing is seizing my attention and telling me to shift my eyes away from the driver. With calm intensity, I slowly turn my head and look up at a Victorian house on the hill, slightly ahead of and a half block beyond the driver’s position. As my eyes come to a rest on the Victorian, the motorcycle driver whips around and screams at me, “What are you looking at, Suckface?” Before the words have completely left his mouth, he realizes, with a look of great shock, that I’m not looking at him but at something in front of and beyond him. He turns around to stare straight ahead, almost as fast as he turned towards me. Even though the energy of his words continues to reverberate loudly throughout my mind, I keep a look of innocence on my face as I slowly return my eyes to him, as if to say, Are you talking to me? His emotional outburst was so graphic and powerful, the image of a man’s face with the mouth area sucked in, in a lurid reference to homosexuality, appears in my mind. When my eyes fully focus on him again, he’s staring straight ahead with a look of utter desperation on his face, a look that says, “Come on light, change – let me out of here!

Still shaken by the violence of his outburst, I continue to study the driver, his passenger, and the motorcycle, until a strange movement at the top of the driver’s head attracts my attention. Curious and on full alert again, I watch as another head begins to emerge through the top of his. This new head, bald and bodiless, is soon floating free in the air above the driver’s head. Mask-like for its hollowness, yet real at the same time, it slowly turns to face me, locking its hypnotic, shiny black eyes onto mine. With grinning arrogance and a look of hungry anticipation on its face, it starts to move toward me, sizing me up as it comes. As the gap closes between us, I suspect that this “thing” is a living manifestation, a psychic projection of quasi-matter, given birth by the sheer intensity of the driver’s thoughts and emotions. Somehow, I’m perceiving inner reality and outer reality simultaneously, and I can shift between the two at will.

As the bodiless head moves closer, it cunningly rises to a position above my head, just beyond my reach, and begins to change before my eyes. In amazement, I watch as it transforms into a circular stone wheel sculpture with two flat sides. The side facing me has lines etched into the surface to form closed eyes, ears, and a nose. Below the hint of a nose is a large gaping mouth, a hole that goes completely through the stone. As the stone face hovers over my head, I’m reminded of a primitive Sun God. Deep grooves radiate out from  the closed eyes like rays of the sun. I wonder, did my fear stopped it, or did it stop on its own? Suspecting the latter, I wonder, what will happen next. What kind of disturbed energy did the motorcycle driver unleash when he turned and yelled at me so violently? Suddenly, the face springs to life! The stony eyelids fly open while the very stone itself reverts back to its original human form and flesh tone. The head’s shiny black eyes once again lock onto mine, and with a look of maniacal glee, it swoops down, open-neck first, to force its way down over my head. Fearing it wants to possess me mind, body and soul, I quickly reach up to defend myself.

Forcing both thumbs up inside the opening of the mask’s skin-like rubbery neck before it can slip down over my head, I clamp my fingers down tightly on both sides of the fleshy neck. This gives me control over the mask as it alternately struggles to force itself down over my head and free itself from my grip. As we both struggle, thoughts about what will happen to if this disturbed personality wins the battle between us, race through my mind. Frightened by the possibility, I strengthen my resolve to fight it off.

Sensing the growing strength of my rejection, the mask redoubles its efforts to alternately force its way down over my head and break free of my grasp. My arms feel like dead weights but I refuse to let go. As our violent struggle continues, I become another me standing on some grass next to a wooden fence in the residential area of a large city. Nighttime lights illuminate the street as I hold the almost lifeless mask in my left hand. Every once in a while it flutters weakly, letting me know it’s still alive. In a fleeting moment of sympathy, before it completely dies, I release it, half expecting it to fall to the ground. Instead, it floats up into the air and, much to my regret, it quickly takes on new life. With renewed energy, it moves toward the darkened city with a look of renewed hope and determination.

Using my inner senses, I also take to the sky and follow the mask at a discreet distance as it combs the city streets and buildings looking for a new victim, one more willing than I. Invisible to him, I watch as he feels out potential victims. Finally he settles on a depressed looking young man sitting on a park bench. I’m amazed at how fast he subdues his new victim. The young man almost gratefully accepts the “Suckface” personality, as the mask easily slips down over his head. Using a kind of psychic shorthand to skip forward in time and space, I watch as a total biological and psychological transformation of the young man takes place. The human body that once belonged to him now belongs to “Suckface”, the personality forged from the anger and contempt of the motorcycle driver, still impatiently sitting beside me at the foot of Fell Street Hill.

Next, an all white room swims into focus. “Suckface” is standing in the middle of the room naked, except for a small loincloth and wide, studded leather belts. One belt is wrapped around his waist while the other, attached at the right side of his waist, runs up his chest and down over his left shoulder, attaching to the waist belt in the back, like a bandoleer. Holding a leather Cat-O-Nine-Tail whip in his right hand, he uses it to both sexually stimulate and punish the naked, submissive man crawling on the floor in front of him. A quick flashback shows Suckface picking him up on the street earlier with the promise of food, wine, and wild, uninhibited sex. Watching this scene from a point in the air between the two men, I know the man on the floor will get his night of wild, uninhibited sex, but he’s also going to get something he didn’t bargain for. At the end of this long night of sexual abandon and sadistic pleasure, he will be killed and, like others before him, his body parts dismembered, wrapped in plastic, and scattered throughout the city for the police to find.

The contempt and loathing Suckface feels for himself and other homosexual men he meets has grown in proportion to his open homosexual activity and the public’s condemnation of it. Unable to reconcile these two strongly opposing forces, he has become self-destructive. While outwardly seething with contempt for those who condemn him and his behavior, unconsciously he accepts their condemnation as the condemnation of his father, the motorcycle driver. Unconsciously, he looks for ways to appease this energy. Ironically, he chooses to destroy those who give him the only love and pleasure in knows in life, his male homosexual partners. In this way he can express his contempt for society and punish himself at the same time. Deep down he knows that playing this gruesome game of cat-and-mouse with the police will ultimately lead to his own downfall but, outwardly, he denies the possibility.

Able to move forward and backward through time and space at will, I watch from an invisible point in the air as Suckface moves through the city streets, hiding the bloody, plastic-wrapped body parts of his latest victim. He’s offering up a sacrifice to the societal limitation and fear that condemns his behavior, “one more dead “queer” for those who hate queers”, he thinks. Unable to resist the urge to pay the ultimate price, he taunts the detective in charge of investigating the series of murders he has committed through cryptic letters. He taunts the detective for not being able to find him, to put a stop to the reign of terror he is inflicting on the city’s homosexual community. Knowing the police are closing in on him in this alternate reality, I return to the present and renew my grip on the struggling mask.

With these terrible thoughts fresh in my mind, I decide my course of action. The Suckface personality, forged from the negative thoughts and emotions of the motorcycle driver, will not gain its freedom today! Enough anger and contempt is loose within the world already. As my resolve solidifies, I return my attention to the mask. Staring down at me the look on its face changes; where once it wore a look of arrogance, strength and superiority, now it wears a look of fear, exhaustion and defeat. Tightening my grip on the mask even more, I project my astral or energy body through the car window, like Plastic Man from the comic books, and try to jamb it down over the motorcycle driver’s head, more than ten feet away. Although my move catches him off guard, he reacts quickly and forces me all the way back into my car. Again and again, we drive one another’s energy bodies back and forth in a pitched battle, neither one of us willing to accept final possession of the mask.

As the motorcycle driver and I grimly fight on, both refusing to accept ownership of the mask, a look of apprehension and fear grows on the mask’s face. Finally, with a look of utter shock and disbelief, it gives up, letting the glow of life that once strongly animated its features, drain from its being. Surprisingly, I feel a touch of sadness. The motorcycle driver and I are now battling over a limp, lifeless rubber mask. Still determined not to keep it, I reach over and try to stuff it into the right hand pocket of the driver’s Mackinaw coat. Still unwilling to accept responsibility for it, he rejects my attempt to put the mask in his pocket and angrily pushes my hand back at me with the mask still in it.

Finally, the traffic light turns green and we both have to shift our attention back to the outside world long enough to get our vehicles moving. As the motorcycle driver and his passenger head up Fell Street Hill, I turn right onto Laguna Street. I still don’t want to keep the dead mask so I reach back again to stuff it into his coat pocket but to no avail. He still refuses to accept it. After several more futile attempts, I arrive home two blocks away to park my car, clean up, and go to bed.

Lying in bed next to my sleeping wife, I find myself unable, or unwilling, to let The “Suckface” Incident go unresolved. Doggedly, I start rerunning the image of the motorcycle driver heading up Fell St. Hill. In each sequence, I put the mask in his pocket but every time I remove my hand the mask comes with it, as if it was glued to my fingers.

Before sleep can claim me, I start an internal dialogue with the motorcycle driver. I admit to him that, as we drove north from South San Francisco together, I was amazed and amused by your look and behavior. I apologize for making fun of him and, in an attempt at humor, I add, But it did look strange to see you beat your buddy’s arm so violently just for signaling turns! He kind of laughs and I volunteer that, I had no right to pick on you. I’m sorry. With this admission a sense of brotherhood and understanding blossoms between us and I use this moment to remind him that, When you did turn around to yell at me, I wasn’t looking at you, and that alone should be reason enough for you to take responsibility for disposing of this mask. With my appeal to his sense of fairness, he silently reaches down and opens his coat pocket, giving me permission to place the dead mask inside, which I do. My final view of him is his back as he drives up Fell St. Hill and disappears over the top, taking the mask with him and out of my life forever. With this delightful image still in my mind, I role over onto my left side and fall fast asleep, in peace.

© Copyright 2007, Roger A. “Pete” Peterson

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

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